Good Friday 2016
The cross looms large in today’s liturgy. How can anyone fail to be moved by it? In the Gospel Passion just proclaimed we have heard how Jesus, “who knew everything that was going to happen to him” went to the cross knowingly, deliberately, and willingly because it was the instrument of our salvation. We heard the crowds repeatedly shout “crucify him, crucify him”; we heard how he was betrayed and abandoned by his friends; how he was scourged, beaten and mocked; how he carried his cross and was crucified; we heard how his mother and just a handful of others stood by him on the cross; we heard that when all was accomplished Jesus bowed his head and gave up the spirit; and we heard how the blood and water poured from his side as he lay hanging dead on the cross.
The cross will loom large again in a few minutes as it is carried into the Cathedral in solemn procession and as we each have the opportunity to venerate it. We will deliberately use a large cross for this veneration, not just so that people can see it clearly, but because of what the cross represents. In the Gospel of John Jesus spoke of loving us to the end. On the cross we see Jesus indeed loving us to the end. And in our veneration of the cross today we will be expressing our gratitude and love for Jesus for loving us to the end.
And when we see Jesus loving us to the end we see God loving us to the end. I’m currently reading a book called “God or nothing” which is an interview with Cardinal Robert Sarah who comes from a tiny and remote village in Northern Guinea in Africa and is now one of the leading Cardinals in the Vatican. He says: “In piercing the heart of Jesus the soldiers spear revealed a great mystery, for it went farther than the heart of Christ. It revealed God; it passed so to speak through the very centre of the Trinity.”
For many of us the cross looms large in our daily life: be it physical suffering, mental illness, or spiritual anguish; be it family conflicts, friendship quarrels, or relationship breakdown; be it work pressures, financial burdens, or struggling with addiction. When the cross looms large in our life it is reassuring to know that the God who loves us to the end, the God who has been pierced for love of us, is with us and has invited us “to take up our cross and follow him.”
In his book Cardinal Sarah fondly remembers how as a child growing up in his village the Missionary Fathers gathered the children every evening under a large cross set up in the mission courtyard and gave them their lessons. He says that this cross came to symbolize the heart and centre of the village. “We could see this cross from far away, he says, we oriented our entire lives by it!”
Growing up as a child in late 20th Century post-Christian Australia I never had the benefit of a large cross in the middle of the country town where I grew up. But in the family home we did have a prominent crucifix above the kitchen door leading down the hallway to our bedrooms. Every night Dad would lift each of we children up high so that we could kiss the cross before going to sleep.
How many of our homes today have a crucifix in them so that we and our children are reminded daily of the mercy and compassion of our God who loves us to the end, so that we and our children might orient our lives by this love?
Cardinal Robert Sarah has experienced many and great sufferings in his life and so he has reflected quite a lot on the cross of Christ. I want to conclude by reading his brief quote from his book:
“The experience of the cross is a grace that is absolutely necessary for our growth in the Christian faith and a providential opportunity to conform ourselves to Christ so as to enter into the depths of the ineffable.”
“I thank the missionaries who made me understand that the cross is the centre of the world, the heart of mankind, and the place where our stability is anchored.”
We adore you O Christ and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.